Papain is a proteolytic enzyme that tenderises meat. The enzyme is extracted from the oldest, yet still green, papaya fruits. A papain rich latex is harvested from the fruit and immediately processed to preserve enzyme activity. There are no spices that actually contain papain and the selling of the enzyme in its pure powder form is highly regulated. Regardless, papain is readily available in meat tenderising powders, green papaya powder and within the fruit itself.
More About Papain
Papain is extracted from papaya by cutting three incisions into the neck of the fruit to encourage the secretion of papain rich latex. The latex is collected and processed immediately because the enzyme loses its activity quickly. The enzyme works by breaking down protein found in the connective fibres of meat making it soft and tender. Processing involves sun drying, spray drying or oven drying to reduce the latex to papain flakes or powder. The raw papain powder is purchased by speciality food ingredient companies in Europe and the U.S. for redistribution in other countries. When contractors purchase raw papain they specify the type, quantity and purpose.
Green Papaya Powder
All-natural green papaya powder is readily available, relatively inexpensive and packed with papain. It's made by a special, undisclosed, dehydration process that preserves the papain. Green papaya powder is usable as a spice rub to flavour and tenderise meat or as an additive to meat marinade to boost its tenderising properties. Meat tenderised by papain has a lower acidic concentration which makes it better for your stomach and easier to digest.
Durkee Seasoned Meat Tenderizer
Durkee Seasoned Meat Tenderizer is another all-natural product rich in papain. Like green papaya powder, it's readily available at most grocers. The tenderising powder effectively breaks down the collagen or elastin that makes meat tough. This powder is extremely potent with papain, requiring only a tablespoon per pound of meat to work effectively. It can be sprinkled directly onto all types of meat or as a flavour additive and tenderising boost to marinades or spice mixes.
Papaya as a Meat Tenderizer
Since papaya is so laden with papain it makes sense to use it as a tenderizer. Most of the papain in a papaya is concentrated in the skin. To make an all-natural meat tenderizer out of papaya, peel the skin at an 1/8- or 1/4- inch thickness; mix with salt, 1/4 tablespoon per 2 tablespoons of papaya peel and ground to a paste in a blender or with a pestle and mortar. The paste is an excellent meat tenderizer but it should be used immediately because the papain will quickly become inactive in such a raw form. The paste is rubbed directly onto any meat or mixed into a marinade.